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Secret Drinker reviews The Golden Lion at Luddesdown between Cuxton and Gravesend


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Can you believe it, Mrs SD wasn’t feeling up for it, so I ended up heading into the north Kent countryside with my apprentice at my side.

Trailing through the narrow lanes looking for an oasis we eventually spied a drinking establishment, The Golden Lion at Luddesdown. In fact, painted an indescribable shade of green it would have been difficult to miss (wonder why they didn’t choose a golden yellow?).

The Golden Lion at Luddesdown
The Golden Lion at Luddesdown

I’m never allowed to choose the paint colour at home, but if I returned from B&Q with that there’d be big trouble.

Still, the outside walls paled into insignificance when compared to the lairy, no-holds-barred shirts everyone inside the pub was wearing.

It seems the darts team practice on a Monday and have just taken delivery of a new strip – names proudly emblazoned across their various backs include: Grumpy; The Tart; Retro; Butch; Little ****. These are at least mentionable, I’ve spared your blushes by excluding the dart name adopted by landlord Graham.

Actually when I say ‘everyone’ in the pub was wearing new shirts I’m not entirely accurate, two pub regulars were shirtless. The barmaid had a mild cob on all evening as she first blamed Russ for an ordering oversight and then anyone else in the team she could think of.

My photo might be a little on the dark side, but I’m sure you can still make out the pattern on the back of this shirt
My photo might be a little on the dark side, but I’m sure you can still make out the pattern on the back of this shirt

As for pub dog, Jasper the Staffador, he was simply too smart and stylish to be seen dead in one! Right, enough fashion news, back to business.

Everyone in the bar was incredibly welcoming and friendly, especially Jasper who kindly presented me with a large purple rope collar the second I walked in.

Don’t be in any doubt who is ‘King of The Jungle’ here – pub dog Jasper (half staffie, half Labrador) is a firm favourite with locals
Don’t be in any doubt who is ‘King of The Jungle’ here – pub dog Jasper (half staffie, half Labrador) is a firm favourite with locals

And, joy of joys, the bar is proud to have Iron Pier beers on tap. I chose a pint of the 3.7% Perry Street Pale, which I’ve sampled previously, but it was just a little on the light side for me so I switched across to the 4% bitter, which was a delight – as full-bodied and with just the same malty aroma I remember.

The apprentice went a different route and selected the 4% Camden pale ale which he said was refreshing, but also had a good lasting flavour.

The apprentice chose a pint of Camden and was impressed by the fact it was served in the right glass on a Camden beer mat
The apprentice chose a pint of Camden and was impressed by the fact it was served in the right glass on a Camden beer mat
I’ve always been a fan of Iron Pier – on this occasion I preferred the bitter to the Perry Street pale ale
I’ve always been a fan of Iron Pier – on this occasion I preferred the bitter to the Perry Street pale ale

This is proper country pub for locals, but it also takes pleasure in getting the little details right and the beer certainly matters. For example, every drink was served in the correct glass, beer mats are placed on every table and the Stella glasses come out of the fridge.

By now Jasper, who is the real king of the jungle, had taken up position on his favourite bench and, with his head resting on the arm, surveyed his kingdom with one eye closed.

The very decent looking dartboard was, unsurprisingly, in constant use and I didn’t spot any other form of pub game on offer. Tunes were being selected from behind the bar and somehow an eclectic selection managed to pass muster with both the apprentice and me, despite our 35-year age gap.

I left the bar to take the evening air and was immediately impressed by the scale and well-kept nature of the garden area and surrounding structures.

The Golden Lion sits right at the heart of the village of Luddesdown
The Golden Lion sits right at the heart of the village of Luddesdown
The pub has always had an extensive garden and used the period of enforced closure to build a new covered seating area
The pub has always had an extensive garden and used the period of enforced closure to build a new covered seating area
The good-sized smoking area is equipped with a pair of highly effective heaters
The good-sized smoking area is equipped with a pair of highly effective heaters

The size of the log store, under a tree behind a fence, was impressive but I suppose it must take a fair bit of wood to fuel two log burners - there’s one at each end of the pub.

The smoking area is also imposing and those who do indulge must be very grateful for the formidable wall heaters, which provide instant warmth.

Landlady, The Duchess (Nicki), who clearly enjoys a fag, joined me outside and was very proud to talk through the considerable and varied history of this interesting free house.

She also waxed lyrical about various events and is particularly excited about the first beer festival since lockdown on the bank holiday weekend, Saturday, August 28, with three bands performing.

I love traditional touches in pubs and you won’t find many more traditional items than this pub carpet!
I love traditional touches in pubs and you won’t find many more traditional items than this pub carpet!

From memory I think she said the Cockney Knights, Counterfeit Beatles and some sort of soul group. I’m sure the groups will be well worth the £5 ticket, but personally I was even more interested to hear Iron Pier will attend.

The toilets, I can report, are superbly maintained and kept very fresh – make sure you wash your hands, the hand drier sounds like a jet engine and everyone in the pub will know if you don’t use it. I also thought I might have discovered the only gents’ door with a letterbox, but I’m assured this was simply a slot for the sign used during Covid to identify the toilets were already occupied.

For all those SD fans disappointed not to see a shot of the gents last week, here’s one showing how you can seat three separate urinals without removing the original trough
For all those SD fans disappointed not to see a shot of the gents last week, here’s one showing how you can seat three separate urinals without removing the original trough

Back inside the bar I spotted a picture on the wall in the conservatory proclaiming, Diana Dors, the British Marilyn Monroe, could occasionally be spotted in the pub’s saloon bar on the arm of a young man from a neighbouring village – an even bigger claim to fame than having SD visit!

Not wishing to be upstaged we decided to take our leave and, having bought an extra bag of pork scratchings to take home for Mrs SD, we headed back down the lane.

Having been impressed by the quality of the pork scratchings, I bought another bag as a special gift for Mrs SD
Having been impressed by the quality of the pork scratchings, I bought another bag as a special gift for Mrs SD

The Golden Lion, Luddesdown Road, Luddesdown, Gravesend DA13 0XE

Decor: **** Very comfortable and traditionally decorated, particularly in the carpet department, the garden and its various covered areas add a whole new dimension.

Drink: ***** A good selection of all types of drinks available, I particularly recommend the Iron Pier offerings, but other beers are available.

Price: *** The Perry Street pale ale is £3.80, a pint of Camden Hells lager £4.80 and, if they take your fancy, a bag of pork scratchings, fresh from the Midlands, is £1.

Staff: **** Chatty and, apart from not having a team shirt, cheerful, our barmaid was efficient and attentive – when the shirt arrives, I’ll award the final star!

Read all Secret Drinker's Kent pub reviews here

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